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The plan area surrounds the overlay area codes 416/647/437, which cover the city of Toronto, leading residents to popularly coin suburban Toronto as "the 905". It is bound by area code 519/226/548 in the west, 705/249 in the north, 613/343 in the east, and New York State area code 716 on the eastern prong of the Niagara Peninsula. The incumbent local exchange carrier for these area codes is Bell Canada.
Area code 905 was once used as a routing prefix for calls from the United States to Mexico during a period when Mexico was expected to become a member of the North American Numbering Plan Administration and international calls otherwise would have been placed through a switchboard operator. However, Mexico decided to establish its own numbering plan as an independent administration. The use of 905 was discontinued by February 1, 1991.
By October 1991, area code 905 had been assigned to relieve exchanges in the Greater Toronto Area--which, then as now, was Canada's largest toll-free calling zone. While the Golden Horseshoe's explosive growth in the second half of the 20th century would have made another area code necessary in any event, the timetable was moved up significantly due to Canada's inefficient system of number allocation. Canada does not use number pooling as a relief measure. Each CLEC is assigned blocks of 10,000 numbers for every rate centre where it plans to offer service, no matter how small. While most rate centres don't need nearly that many numbers, a number is unavailable for reassignment elsewhere once assigned to a CLEC and rate centre. This resulted in thousands of unallocated numbers.
The problem was not as severe in the Golden Horseshoe as in the rest of Canada; then as now, numbers tended to be used up fairly quickly. However, the proliferation of cell phones, pagers, fax machines, and dial-up Internet connections made it apparent that the Golden Horseshoe needed another area code.
Automatic number identification (ANI) in some central office switching systems in the numbering plan area started operation on October 11, 1992. The new area code entered service on October 11, 1993. Permissive dialing of 416 continued across the Golden Horseshoe until January 1, 1994.
Five years after its introduction, 905 was close to exhaustion far sooner than anticipated. By 1999, the CRTC had established an ad-hoc committee to study NPA relief planning for area code 905. A split of the NPA was considered, with various options presented:
a geographic split by municipality (either two-way or three-way)
a geographic split of concentric rings around Toronto
re-aligning NPA boundaries (some areas retain 905, others acquire a new NPA); that is, a municipality and exchange split
a distributed overlay
The overlay option was chosen because it would cause the least disruption; it would require no changes for existing customers in the 905 area. It would also be far easier to implement technically. Bell and the other carriers in the area were especially supportive of an overlay. Not only would it have forced customers to change their numbers for the second time in less than a decade, but it would have forced en masse reprogramming of cell phones. For the same reason, Toronto itself was overlaid with area code 647 (and later 437).
The 289 NPA overlay was approved by the CRTC on August 15, 2000 (Order CRTC 2000-772). Earlier that month, Toufic Saliba, consultant and technical engineer at the Commission, directed the addition of area code 289 in the 905 area code region. In doing so, Saliba directed that all carriers put in place a 10-digit dialing plan for all local calls. In this order, the Commission directed Bell Canada to implement the 10-digit local dialing plan. 289 came into service on April 7, 2001, and was in full operation by June 9, 2001.
905 officially became exhausted in November 2005. All new central office prefixes are assigned in 289, as there are no longer any available prefixes in 905. Part of the problem stemmed from the creation of single-tier "megacities" across Ontario at the turn of the millennium. Many of these enlarged cities are split between multiple rate centres which have never been amalgamated. An example is Hamilton, Canada's 10th-largest city; it is split between nine rate centres. Another example is Vaughan, which is split between three rate centres and part of a fourth; the city is not even listed in the phone book, but the various rate centres are listed separately. This also applies to newer cities created in the 1970s prior to the introduction of the 905 code. For example, Mississauga, the largest city in the NPA--and the sixth-largest city in all of Canada--is split between five rate centres, even though it has been a single municipality since 1974.
Due to the fact that this is a large and rapidly growing region, area code 365 was assigned for further relief on March 25, 2013, and has been set aside for further relief as the area is expected to exhaust by 2036 at current growth rates.
The term has been used in the context of Canadian politics, where the 416 is a stronghold of Liberals and NDP, whereas the 905 historically had strong ties to the Progressive Conservative Party. The region has, however, backed opposition parties as a protest vote, including both the NDP in the 1990 provincial election and the Liberals in the 2003 provincial election, as a backlash to the incumbent government. In both cases, the opposition party was elected to government with strong backing of the 905 region. The 2011 federal election saw the 905 region become entirely represented by candidates of the Conservative Party of Canada, save a single riding, while one third of the 416 ridings were won by Conservatives, many through vote splitting between the Liberals and NDP. In the 2019 Canadian Federal Election, the entire 416 was a Liberal stronghold, however, the parties were fighting over control over the 905 as historically, winning the 905 is key to parties forming government. In the end, most 905 ridings were won by the Liberals over the Conservatives . The Liberals ultimately beat the Conservatives and formed a minority government with the support of the 905 .
^"905 region to add new area code". CBC News. April 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010. The area around Toronto is known colloquially as "the 905," after the area code that was added in 1993 and covers such areas as Mississauga and Niagara Falls.